New York Governor David Paterson is expected to sign an executive order protecting transgender state employees from discrimination on Wednesday.

A group with direct knowledge of the governor's plans, the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF), called the order an important step.

“Like everyone else, transgender employees deserve to be judged on their ability to do the job, and not on who they are,” Michael Silverman, executive director of TLDEF, said in a statement released Tuesday.

“This executive order will ensure that hard-working trangender employees of New York can work without fear of discrimination, and provide for themselves and their families.”

“We applaud Governor Paterson for taking this important step for transgender equal rights,” he added.

The state's largest cities – New York City, Rochester, Albany and Buffalo – already prohibit discrimination in the workplace on the basis of gender identity.

Gay activists have lobbied for a similar statewide measure in the New York Legislature. Lawmakers in the Assembly have repeatedly approved the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), a bill that would protect transgender persons in the areas of employment, housing, public accommodations, education and credit, but the Senate has so far refused to hear the issue.

The governor is expected to sign the order at a press event Wednesday morning at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center in Greenwich Village. A number of high-profile gay activists, including representatives from Empire State Pride Agenda, the state's largest gay rights group, and TLDEF are expected to join the governor.

The order will not apply to employees working in the public sector. For that to happen, lawmakers would need to approve GENDA.